Richard Bellamy Discusses "Rethinking Political Legitimacy in the EU"


By Nastassja Biles and Olivia Slaughter

On February 14, 2017, the Guarini Institute of Public Affairs, along with the Think! Student Philosophy Club and the Department of Political Science and International Affairs, hosted Professor Richard Bellamy, of University College London and the European University Institute in Florence. Bellamy is an internationally recognized political philosopher and recipient of many awards for his contributions to political thought. He shared his analysis of the current situation in the European Union and his solution for keeping it together.

Richard Bellamy

Richard Bellamy

Bellamy began by stating that “the states of the E.U. feel disconnected from decision-making.” He claimed that the problem is that democratic decision-making in many states is affected by trade, investment, and neo-liberal policies, whether these states are in the E.U. or not. Economic problems like these, along with the euro crisis, have created “Trump-like populist leaders.” This was the case with Brexit, which Bellamy called the “lion roars” response to the democratic problem and described as deriving in part from misjudged frustration with elites, as well as the “mouse roars” response of Wallonia’s rejection of the E.U.’s trade deal with Canada.

Bellamy asked whether this might be explained in terms of Dani Rodrik’s trilemma of the global economy, according to which “you cannot have self-determination, democracy, and economic globalization all at once.” He pointed out that, unlike those sitting in the Guarini Institute hearing his lecture, 90% of the population rarely or never travels. Policies that benefit local populations are therefore always more appealing. Correspondingly, Bellamy’s “demoi-cratic” solution to the E.U.’s problems attempted to show how the three aspects of Rodrick’s trilemma could be fulfilled, even if only minimally.

Bellamy introduced his solution in two parts, first assessing “the democratic deficit” and then addressing “the demoi-cratic disconnect”. He discussed how globalization was constrained until the 1980s when the oil crisis led to deregulation, which then lead to globalization and growth, and how the E.U. had helped to enhance democracy at the state level, with states bringing E.U. policies home to their national constituencies. However, many states do not want Europe-wide solutions to European “problems” because of the supranational authority which that would imply. Many problems do not require such supranational policy solutions, but can instead be resolved at the state level. Therefore, Bellamy’s solution to the “demoi-cratic disconnect” was “republican intergovernmentalism,” by which states collaborate with each other without the domination of a supranational entity.

Bellamy concluded that Rodrik’s trilemma could be overcome through association and collaboration between E.U. states. He ended by also stating that, while many believe that the end of the euro would be the end of the E.U., he believed the opposite: in order for the E.U. to survive and prosper, the euro must be abandoned for the sake of democratic sovereignty.